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US Geologists Want to Crack Open 830-Million-Year-Old Salt Crystal That May Contain Life

Geologists Want to Open 830-Million-Year-Old Crystal That Might Contain LifeInternationalIndiaAfricaAs soon as it was unveiled to the public, some social media users started speculating about potential risks of letting dangerous bacteria out once the crystal is open.Researchers from the Geological Society of America are going to crack open an 830-million-year-old salt crystal to study ancient microorganisms they believe are there and may even still be alive. The team of geologists first reported their discovery in the journal Geology earlier this month. According to them, the microorganisms they want to study are little remnants of prokaryotic and algal life that were preserved inside microscopic bubbles of liquid in the crystal.Such crystals are known as halites, a type of rock salt which is the natural form of sodium chloride (NaCl). This very halite was extracted from the 830-million-year-old Browne Formation of central Australia, and contains organic solids and liquids. The discovery has shown that microorganisms can remain well preserved in halite over hundreds of millions of years. Scientists believe this will help them search for life «in both terrestrial and extraterrestrial chemical sedimentary rocks». Geologists also hope that similar microorganisms could be discovered on Mars, where vast salt deposits located in what once used to be water-filled reservoirs have already been identified.Since the news about plans to crack open the crystal was shared online, some people have been expressing concerns about whether there are risks of starting a new pandemic once ancient microorganisms are released. However, researchers insist they will carry out the procedure with the utmost caution. Also, some biologists who have commented on the upcoming experiment said that a microorganism that has never seen a human can in no way cause a disease among us.

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